UK - Fears that the Pensions Bill may be delayed or dropped increased Following work and pensions secretary Andrew Smith's shock resignation on Monday.
Smith quit amid speculation of a feud with prime minister Tony Blair over deep cuts in the incapacity benefit budget.
Smith ñ who is seen as a close ally of chancellor Gordon Brown - claimed his decision would enable him to spend more time with his family.
But the timing of his departure has sparked fears that the Bill, which is due to receive Royal Assent in November, will no longer make it on to the statute books.
There were already concerns that Blair’s plans to placate backbenchers by rushing through a Bill to ban hunting would leave little time for other legislation, including the Pensions Bill.
Conservative pensions spokesman Nigel Waterson said: “If they want to drive through the hunting Bill, something else is going to be dropped. The Pensions Bill is so much of a mess that it is almost irretrievable, so they may use that as an excuse to drop it.”
But the National Association of Pension Funds warned the government that any delay would infuriate the industry.
Chairman Terry Faulkner said: “You cannot play petty politics with one of the most important social issues of the day. Our pensioners and future pensioners deserve a real commitment from the government.”
He added: “We need to have a secretary of state in place as soon as possible. The last time we were without one it created a blight on planning.”
EEF deputy director of employment policy David Yeandle agreed.
“There is a lot of concern. The government should be getting this Bill through as quickly as possible because meeting the April 2005 deadline is already challenging. Any further delay would cause major problems.”
Key provisions of the Bill include the establishment of the Pension Protection Fund and the abolition of the minimum funding requirement.
In this week's Pensions Buzz we want to know what you think of the government's proposals set out in the DB white paper, which include new powers for the regulator.
The pensions watchdog has been through some testing times and is making significant changes to the way it regulates. Speaking to Stephanie Baxter, Mark Boyle takes stock and looks to the future
Enhanced powers for The Pensions Regulator (TPR) to prosecute and fine company directors who "wilfully or recklessly" put their defined benefit (DB) pension scheme at risk will be hard to enforce, commentators say.
Melrose has pledged to contribute up to £1bn to GKN's pension schemes as part of a final offer to acquire the engineering business.